Russian President Vladimir Putin is creating uproar in the art world. Recently, he gave an order which states that the State Tretyakov Gallery must return one of the country’s most precious and religious art icons. It is Andrei Rublev’s 15th-century artwork, the “Trinity”, a git to the Russian Orthodox Church. Art experts, enthusiasts, and conservatives worldwide are up in arms about the order. They warn that the acclaimed Russian artefact is simply too fragile and delicate for travel and any form of movement.

Credit: The Art Newspaper

A Major Threat to a Culturally Crucial Icon

The statute came about a week post the Hermitage Museum, also situated in Saint Petersburg, concurred to send back the silver sarcophagus of Saint Alexander Nevsky to the Church.

“All professional restorers unanimously say that the condition of the Trinity plaque is such that any movement of it, even for a short distance, is fraught with danger and the icon may simply [be destroyed],” stated the art historian Alexei Lidov.

Art experts and professionals have severely criticised the decision. They are considering the same as a transparent, well-calculated ploy by Putin. He aims to sustain the support of the highly influential religious body for his protracted invasion of Ukraine. Surely, the infamous Kremlin has chosen to draft a much-loved and respected icon for the purpose of blatant war propaganda.

Putin War Propaganda Fueled by the Church’s Questionable Support

A security guard stands next to the Trinity icon at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius | Credit: REUTERS

Previously, the Russian Orthodox Church has openly shown its continued support of Russia’s war attack on Ukraine. The war-torn nation continues to bleed and weep, with at least 100,000 casualties, according to the US Department of Security. The Church has blessed Russian soldiers and promised glory in Heaven for those killed in duty. Clearly, the atrocities of the aforementioned war are the least of the Church’s concerns and woes.

The acclaimed art piece in question depicts three angels visiting the Prophet Abraham at the Oak of Mamre, as chronicled in the Book of Genesis. Evidently, this art icon receives great regard as one of the greatest visual representations of Trinitarian unity. The priceless artwork stayed at the monastery until the Soviet state claimed and took it away.

Rublev’s piece was commissioned in order to honour Saint Sergius of Radonezh of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, outside Moscow. The decree of Ivan, the Terrible, resulted in almost total concealment of the piece with a metal covering called a “riza”, until 1904.

“It could simply be lost and could disintegrate into several pieces. The icon consists of three plates that are not very securely attached to each other.” said Elizaveta Likhacheva. She is the Fine Arts Director of Pushkin State Museum.

Opposing Views Amongst the Russian Delegates

According to President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, “The transfer of the icon is the prerogative of the ministry of culture. It was, without a doubt coordinated with the head of state.” However, Andrei Vorobev is of the opposing opinion. He is a former head of the catalog of the Russian Federation Museum collections and deputy director of the Tretyakov Gallery. “Putin does not have the authority to dispose of objects belonging to the state, included in the Russian museum collection. He has never had such authority.” he stated.

In the former half of this year, the Russian Ministry of Culture replaced the general director of the Tretyakov Gallery. This came after the Ministry demanded that the museum must change its art exhibits. They need to be more aligned with the country’s “spiritual and moral values.”

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